“Dear Mr. Van Dijck,
We need to restock your book Information for Designers. Unfortunately, I cannot locate the name of the publisher …” I think this is good news :)

I helped out a bit with the Ourmedia metadata work, and they were nice enough to label me “metadata nerd” on their project team page. Chech out Ourmedia. It’s a brilliant and worthwhile project.

Something I just realized: in the history of science, very little research has been done into research methods. What works, what doesn’t and why. I actually met someone in London once who was starting up research into research methods as an academic discipline – can’t find his name now though. Fascinating stuff.

The same applies to IA. Sure, we have cardsorts and such, but not a lot of insight, really, in what works, and especially why. Rashmi (academic with a superpractical bent) and Donna are two of our best thinkers in that field.

Related: my research agenda for IA post.

Gerry McGovern: “In 1996, I started this weekly opinion piece with the objective of helping to build my personal brand name. I wanted to become known as an expert in web content so that I could make a good living from this area.”

I was in Flashmob yesterday night, and it was great fun. We all went in a big store on 14th St and stood in windows and did certain moves. The passersby were weirded out :) Video to come later.

I asked some people at the recent IASummit about folksonomies in the hallways. PeterMe thinks the IAs have a better conversation going on around folksonomies than the techies – I’m not so sure. I’ve been a bit dissapointed with the lack of IA’s speaking up in the blogosphere about this.

The panel at the IA Summit was good though. It lacked insights about integrating folksonomies with other approaches (how exactly, folks?), and there were some misconceptions (synonyms are NOT a problem with folksonomies, they’re a problem with the technology. Google solved search query synonyms pretty well, the folksonomies will do the same.), but overall it was great to hear IA’s speak up. Too bad we don’t do this publicly, enough (and I’m as guilty as the next guy).

Peter Morville’s part of the panel was brilliant. I’d actually never seen him speak – he had me laugh out lout quite a few times. David Weinberger‘s favourite metaphor (folksonomies are leaves falling of the trees) was extended in many ways. Peter Morville: “what happens with leaves that are raked together? They rot. And become food. For trees. Which then live long and useful lives.” There was more talk about trees having many shapes, trees blocking out the light for new things to grow, people bumping into trees which can cause pain and so on. Fun.

Anyways,
here’s the movie
(Quicktime, 7M)

Christina: “Lots of interesting stuff in thsi series– in particular the global IA session and its attendant implications I found fascinating. The session was less about IA and more about understanding, interacting with and perhaps even shaping culture via translation & internationaliation activities.

If you realize that categorization is essentially a framing activity, a la lakoff, then taxonomy translation (as opposed to localization) is an imperialist activity.”

Rashmi: “Folk taxonomies are a well studied subject. Whats interesting about them is not how much people differ, but how much consensus there is about categorization schemes.”

The Shifted Librarian: Kailee Is Older than Yahoo:

“Brent: “So Yahoo is only 10 years old? I thought it was more like 20.”
Jenny: “No, it’s almost as old as you are.” (Brent is nine years old.)
Brent: “Wow. So there was no Yahoo before I was born?”
Jenny: “That’s right. Before you were born, there wasn’t really an internet or the web or email. There was a very basic form for people in the military and at universities, but there were no web sites to visit and no web games to play.”
Brent: “So Runescape didn’t exist?”
Jenny: “Nope. You’re older than Runescape.”
Brent: “So computers were worthless ten years ago?”

Just a note: if you’re looking for an IA job, going to the IA Summit is probably the best investment you could make. If you didn’t make it, there are some postings (Google! Yahoo!) on the IA Summit 2005 blog.

Just had an insight about opening API’s. If you have the best process for adding new valuable data (your users add it, or you have a great web spider, or whatever), it makes great sense to open up your api’s. People will become dependent on you. You remove a lot of competition. If you don’t, in other words, if you already have pretty much all the data you’re going to have, it does not make sense to open up your data through an api. You’d be giving away your store.

So competitive advantage lies in the ability to expand and improve your data more reliably than others.

Is it just me, or is there new life in the home-grown software business? When Microsoft and Co made it pretty hard for anyone to run a small software business in the 90s, the landscape wasn’t looking good. But now, with web apps and web-driven apps, there seems to be a new creativity out there, and a bunch of new small software developers.

DrunkenBlog: Inside Ranchero with Brent and Sheila Simmons: “One of the joys of running your own business is that you can tell the hypothetical MBAs to hypothetically get lost.” Love that quote.

Underused IA tools

Us IA’s have a lot of tools at our disposal (personas, sitemaps, task analysis, …), most of them taken and adapted from other disciplines. But I have the feeling we’re somehow selective in which tools we appropriate. Here are some tools that we don’t seem to use much, even though they can be extremely useful.

Content testing. One of the best talks I saw at the IASummit was Testing Translations: Content, Images, and Perception by Mark Nolan. He explained how they tested content. And I realized: too often we develop IA’s without spending a LOT of time on the content itself. The presentation was an eye opener: the content was tested in detail, and many lessons were learned. Content testing lets users not just FIND content but then use it, and tests for understanding and such. Be honest: have you ever done focussed content testing?

Object models. I don’t mean detailed, programmer-like object models, but high level object models that help you think through certain domains.

Business process analysis. I really don’t understand why IA’s don’t talk more about business processes. For people who work in enterprise settings, understanding them and finding ways to support them with IA is crucial.

What underutilized methods have I missed?